Insight: Why have Honda struggled so much in F1? Maybe this is the reason
Honda F1
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Jun 2017   |  7:16 pm GMT  |  238 comments

Formula 1 is an incestuous business.

People are baffled about how the world’s largest engine maker, Honda, could have got its hybrid turbo engine programme so wrong, year after year. And perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that it has not been incestuous enough.

Let me explain.

There is a limited pool of expertise at the highest level in F1 and it commands a high value and it tends to move around.

Honda F1

Peter Prodromou left Red Bull Racing, at the end of their dominant period, for McLaren and after a few months ‘gardening leave’ took a headful of secrets about how Adrian Newey’s complex aerodynamics and rake angles work to his new employers in Woking.

There isn’t much about how Ferrari operates today that Mercedes don’t know from hiring James Allison, from the set up of the engineering and design departments, simulation tools and the engine facility to the way the chief strategist thinks.

Top operations engineer Jock Clear moved the opposite way, so the knowledge gains cancelled each other out!

This is a time honoured tradition and it’s actually a good thing for F1 because it raises the standard across the field. A good example of that is Toro Rosso and its transformation from Minardi era staff to the team it is today.


When Giorgio Ascanelli (above) was running it, the team was largely Italians. Nothing wrong with that, but as staff came in from UK based teams and Red Bull Technology in the UK (not necessarily all British but who had worked for UK based teams) the know how of everything from the simple to the complex infused the team and the standard went up.

It’s all about ideas and processes. There are some things F1 teams do that any rival team can notice and copy, such as the pivoting front jack for faster pit stops. But there are thousands of little processes and ideas that are percolated in teams and refreshed through learnings and staff changes, that keep moving F1 teams forward.

Honda F1

The same is even more true for the rarified world of hybrid turbo F1 engines. Mercedes got the jump on everyone else in 2014 by focussing on energy regeneration from the KERS days and investing in a centre of excellence on this technology at Brixworth, near Northampton.

The highly organised engineers, under Andy Cowell, were looking ahead to the 2014 F1 season when the game changer would be hybrid technology. Mercedes saw the opportunity and took it. Ferrari and Renault were left behind.

But not for long. By 2015 the Ferrari was a good step closer on engine power and had improved markedly on recovery rates and on driveability. The original Ferrari hybrid power unit was too sudden in the way it moved between engine modes, which unsettled the engine, created vibration and also unsettled the driver. Power delivery was all over the place.

The Mercedes was smoother and that made for a better and more drivable engine. That know how transferred.

By 2016 the engine was the best part of the Ferrari car, the chassis was now letting it down. This year there is nothing to chose between Mercedes and Ferrari packages.

Andy Cowell

That’s partly because Ferrari spent a lot of money, but also because some engineers had been recruited from Mercedes with know-how. They tried to get Cowell himself but he stayed loyal to the three pointed star.

Others moved too; from last year to this Renault picked up two Mercedes and two Ferrari engineers to help drive the recovery of their programme, which still lags behind the top two (much to Red Bull’s frustration).i

The rotation of information is critical to F1 and this is where Honda gave itself a handicap. Already they were up against it because of coming in late to the party when other manufacturers had three to five years headstart on the technology. But to compound that, they are cut off and isolated in Japan without the throughput of the know-how that has rotated through the Europe based builders.

It’s a similar thing with tyre knowledge. The top teams have tyre technicians with years of experience of different teams and it’s very valuable with unpredictable tyres such as the Pirellis.

Honda has a proud tradition of training engineers in F1 who then go on to the other areas of the business. It’s always been part of the rationale for going racing, as well as to show the challenging spirit.

They are now in the realms of damaging the brand, the longer their problems in F1 go on.

Ferrari engineers

They appear not to have sought to headhunt Mercedes or Ferrari engineers. You might think that for a German or an Italian it would not be attractive to go to Japan to work, but speaking to F1 engineers that’s what is considered a ‘no-lose’ situation. You go there for three to five years on big money, the product can only get better as a result and you can come back to the UK richer and with reputation enhanced.

“It’s hard to get a move like that wrong”, one engineer told this site.

The problem is lead times; both with the engines themselves due to it taking months for castings and so on and also for gardening leave for engineers with the know-how; typically up to 12 months.

Honda urgently needs an injection of know-how and a season of development with Sauber.

They owe McLaren for the failures of the past three years, so a temporary separation in 2018, with Honda continuing to fund the McLaren team and white label Mercedes engines, until being reunited again in 2019 would make business sense on all sides.

Let’s see if it happens or whether the relationship is past even that solution.

What do you think? Leave your comments below

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If F1 decided to abandon Hybrid technology would anybody bemoan that fact? I doubt it and in fact I think it would be welcome. Even Bernie had that part right when he pointed out that Hybrid is scarcely cutting edge. Here in California having a hybrid does not even allow driving in high occupancy lanes anymore.


Great and interesting insight. Thanks.


I’m totally agree with you. The knowledge in the long run is to share to all teams … less for honda, that incomprensiblement seeks outside help to a pride difficult to understand, and still less, when they lose a reputation that has been gained over the years and it runs out slowly.


That’s exactly what I said time ago, after the first months. The Japanese in general are close and proud but in this case it could lead to disaster, as it is…


This whole engine problem doesn’t seem that difficult to solve IF THEY WANT TO:

When I started watching F1 in 1995, there were works engine manufacturers vs privateers.

Works in 1995: Renault, Ferrari, Mercedes, Peugeot, Ford, Yamaha,
Privateer: Brian Hart & Mugen. In 1998, Arrow built their own engine.
Back then, as now, the works manufacturers had relatively unlimited budgets. However the privateer teams engines weren’t that far behind the works ones. Harte were respectable and Mugen were much sought after. The Arrows engine didn’t disgrace itself either.

The fact was that it wasn’t that difficult to build a 3.0 Normally Aspirated Engine, the knowledge was out there.

If there was a will to do it, they could go back to the 3.0 NA formula in the morning and have all sorts of manufacturers entering.

However, I think that somebody in F1 made a deal with Merc that they could write the engine rulebook to suit themselves and thereby elevate their brand towards being a legendary one like Ferrari through a continued period of dominance if they didn’t pull out with BMW, Toyota, Ford, Honda etc. back in 2009. F1 was on it’s knees at that stage.


McLaren going back to Honda again after taking a breather?

The real question for McLaren is whether they really have a “Works Engine” partnership with Honda – or are able to get there in the future.

As envisioned by Ron Dennis, a works engine partnership is where the chassis and the engine are designed together as a whole, and all tradeoffs are considered across the traditional boundaries between engine and chassis.

This appears not to be the case between the two – so even with a reliable and powerful Honda engine, McLaren would be behind the real “works” teams.
After all, McLaren seem unaware about what Honda is working on, and Top Management communication between the companies is nonexistent. And why did McLaren have to use the press to express their dissatisfaction with Honda if the two management teams were talking?


What a fantastic piece. Really informative. Keep it up!


Do you think williams could swap to honda power next year?.
Williams have already chosen stroll for his dad’s money over a fast driver.
I can see them choosing honda 💰 instead of paying out for mercedes. Any rumours?


I think you also read the article in gptoday , right?

That will be along with “laughable” actually consistent with Williams new spirit of “money instead of glory”.

I can totally see Mclaren using Merc engine and then Sauber and Williams using Honda for next year.


Things can move fast once decisions have been made. It would not surprise me at all if talks with Mercedes were at a far more advanced stage than any of us realise and if they are already working out how to fit the Merc PU into the current car with a view to racing it after the Summer break. And it would not surprise me if Alonso himself was pushing heavily for this. There is no point at all in limping on with the Honda PU if they can’t see it being up to snuff.


But Honda has Gilles Simon as a consultant until this year. What exactly did he contribute???

It is just as likely Honda were hamstrung by size 0 thinking, the token system and their consultant who told them what things they needed to fix.

They should know a bit about ICE and hybrid systems having built them for years. And they should have a track simulator dyno as one is shown on the Honda website videos.

Maybe they are just laying a thick smokescreen this year before they do better?????


I can’t remember any “honda domination era” in F1
(I say I can’t remember, not saying didnt exist in the all history, in case someone older want to correct me).

So from the beginning I thought that McHonda reunion its just a nostalgic thing fated to be disastrous.


The initial 2015 was a dog due to the Size Zero philosophy McLaren wished to pursue. They should have taken notice of Ferrari’s struggles in 2014 with that very philosophy. Ferrari learned that a bigger turbo and improved hybrid capabilities were the key to making more power. Honda improved the engine last year but instead of building an evolutionary version for 2017 gambled on a revolutionary one and has lost big time. Honda currently looks pretty hopeless and I don’t see any improvement coming in the next season or two. By than the board will decide enough is enough and pull the plug on the entire fiasco.


“People are Baffled ” ?
The whole world’s baffled about Honda.
Has anyone scene the clip on
BBC Have I Got News For You use the clip
duffer Nigel Farage using the same quote 😄
Honda are pants in F1 they should stick to 2 wheels in Moto GP though Ducati are coming strong. I hope Ducati sticks it to Honda there also.


I’m a retired mechanical engineer and in the course of my career I had a lot of experience working with technical people from Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand and some with people from the UK, France, Germany and Brazil. The Japanese are by far the most closed to external information and assistance. As long as a given task is not time sensitive, that can be tolerated. However, when there is time sensitivity, the situation is magnified. In previous times, having decision making concentrated in Japan was also a hindrance as it slowed the whole process down. It could also sometimes lead to incorrect conclusions due to not having first hand information. These were the major reasons, from what I understand, for the lack of results with the Toyota F1 effort but perhaps that effect is decreasing with time. Going from memory, didn’t Honda do a season or two with the Spirit F1 team before moving to McLaren? That would have been a much better approach this time around, but my guess is that the timing of the end of the McLaren-Mercedes arrangement precluded that…


mclaren chose honda to supply them, now they have honda supplying them with engines and spare cash. they’ve got exactly what they wanted so i don’t understand what all the fuss is about. alonso wanted mclaren and is with maclaren too. if he wanted to stay with ferrari, he would’ve but he didn’t.
there isn’t a rule that says teams or drivers must take turns in winning. it’s a competition and the best at any race will win that race. it’s up to teams and drivers to prepare well enough to give themselves that winning chance..


Hiring an engineer from another team for big money is often paying for the risk of the engineer to go to jail when trying to bring software and blueprints from the old team.
As in Toyota 2002/3 using the Ferrari aerodynamic software and more or less doing a copy of the Ferrari.
Perhaps Honda is to gentlemanlike to survive in the F1 swamp of espionage ???


Yeah trust me they are not. We were threatened by other teams when one their engineers was caught under a competitors transporter taking spy pictures of their race cars & engines. We had to tell them that might be ok in Japan but not ok here.




Not capitals please


I’ve been following this F1 technical forum for some time. The Honda Power Unit topic now has over 9200 posts. Give it a look:

Torchwood Mobile

If going to Japan would be a no-lose situation, what would happen if engineers made the first approach to Honda?

Would Honda save face for not asking for help, or would they feel the applicant disloyal to whomever he or she was with before?

jonathan powell

Hi James who do you believe are the key people working their magic at Force India currently and who have come from other teams?
I agree with what you’ve said in the article however Pat Symonds wasnt able to return Williams back to winning ways and it remains to be seen if Paddy Lowe will aswell….


My understanding is that several engine tech people were talking to Honda but were ultimately rejected because they were European and would not fit well into the Honda culture. “It isn’t the Honda way of doing things.”
And that is one of the biggest hurdles corporate-run teams have to get over. F-1 teams and their personnel have to be nimble and react to changes and opportunities. They need to make decisions quickly and be able to change without getting approvals from legions of corporate “suits.” It’s not the Honda way…
The downside of the incestuous nature of F-1 is that poaching of personnel is particularly devastating for smaller teams. A quality talent builds his/her chops at the small team then is lured away by one of the larger teams with bigger budgets and salaries. I think that scenario hit Sauber particularly hard. They had a great pool of talent that were able to get the team to punch way above their weight. But they were lured away. Same with Renault. So far Sauber hasn’t had the resources to build another team of designers and engineers that have jelled as well.
Sure it can give the small teams a leg up if they can attract talent away from the larger teams or pickup someone who has separated from an older, larger team. But I am afraid Sauber will not survive in the long run.


So working with Honda years ago on racing projects, you cant believe how difficult it is to deal with them. They are the classic example of “If we didn’t think of it isn’t going to happen” or “oh Don-san that is impossible and cant be true” The amount of meetings I sat through for the Indycar project when it first began, was told that they were going to have the most powerful engine in the series in its debut is mindboggling and I cant count on my fingers. When they finally stated how much it was and I pointed out Cosworth had about 200 more then that at the time. Then came the “oh Don-san that is impossible you are incorrect.” Well guess how well Bobby did at Indy that year. Oh yeah he didn’t qualify and he was also blamed for poor car setup for why he didn’t.
It was amazing how many good guys quit working for them because they were American and The Japanese would not listen to them.
So here you have an F1 project that has had the ability to do well, but even if they hired engineers that worked under Andy, would probably not be listened to or believed. I’ve been in their dyno cells and they don’t lie, software and technicians can though. This all starts with trust something they lack. In the big picture they get what they deserve. Its just unfortunate that McLaren is at the back of the grid because of it.


Time is not on Honda’s side. They also seem to lack vision. Perhaps it’s time for old dogs to bow out and hire some fresh brains from abroad. At the end it will still be Honda.


A bit off topic, but… I’ll post anyway xP

Nick Fry talking at MABS2017.
In 2008 FAlonso refused an offer made by Honda Racing, right before it was transferred to Brawn. “Fernando Alonso should have driven for Nick Fry y Ross Brawn in 2009. Had FA done it, he would be four times F1 WDC by now”.


What impact does the language and cultural barriers pose for F1 engineer moving to Japan for 3 or 4 years. Would young European graduates with families leave the familiar comfort of “motorsports valley” for three years in Japan with the wife and kids comfortably or should Honda bring its F1 operation to Europe, like it did auto design and marketing to California.


I agree with your article. Europe has in the engine area outstripped Japan for a number of years. Honda on 2 wheels in moto GP”” is struggling against Ducati from Italy powerwise”” .


The conclusion on what will happen is way to logical and pragmatic to play out in the world of F1. The thesis is bang on so the only way the soloution works out is if Honda is forced to hire outside help. Nothing shows that will happen. It is pride and it is a reluctance to accept what is in peoples heads over what is written down and proven fact. They believe magically there people will get it from hard work and disipline because that is the way academics suggests it should work. F1 teams have proved it is from mentorship. Everyone mentors everyone else through the revolving door. Honda can’t accept that so it is going to fail. Sorry Sauber.


Great article, I think it sums up more or less the story with Honda (and Toyota) all along… its a culture problem. They don’t seem to get how F1 works, nor have the resolve or ability to adapt. It comes off as arrogance by Honda, that they think they can do it on their own, when the answer… as pointed out here….has been right in their face during every lunch conversation at every race weekend. How can you be immersed in the F1 paddock and still be completely unaware that poaching engineers from other teams is not only desirable but entirely necessary? My guess is they aren’t unaware, rather they just refuse to adapt. Must be some very hard heads and/or the politics in Japan must be thick as mud.

As a fan of Honda, its been a real bummer to watch. But also, I say if they are incapable or unwilling to adapt to what it takes to succeed, then they get exactly what they deserve. It’s been pathetic to watch, and underscores just how complex this sport is, which is why I continue to love it.


Having read and reread all of this i am struck with lack of ‘clarity’ regarding the prime cause of Honda’s pitiful attempts to build a decent engine/PU. The way that the japanese conduct their business is only a small part of the problem but it does have a compounding effect. IMO the reason that Honda has failed is simply, they don’t have the technical expertise to understand, build and implement this technology. That is the starting point and everything else simply is an ‘add on’ to the failure. Given that after some three years they are no closer, some could say they are worse, is testimony that they do not understand what the concept is and they have no idea about how to rectify it. They should, once again IMO, either leave the business or take a leave of absence until such time as they are able to actually build a competitive engine. They will lose face…so what, who cares. they are just another manufacturer. They have brought this on themselves and they have no one else to blame. The sooner they go the better. I’d be far happier to see them running customer engines and fighting for finishes. It grieves me to see Alonso being trashed at the back of the grid.


Its all this but also they are based in japan. Its so much easier to move things along if they are in the same space or even the same country. Skype conferencing is still a too formal approach for the transmission and development of ideas. This is true whether you are making balloons or hybrid engines


Look how simple an Indy engine is compared to F1 and Honda cannot even do this without a load of them blowing up!

Good article though, nice to read about the biggest mystery in F1 when Honda refuse to try to explain their year on year failings that are on an exponential getting worse curve.


Sure you mean TOO incestuous? They only care about doing it the Japanese way and, simply, that way is failing.
People need to consider that the landscape of the motor industry has moved west of Japan these days. That and there’s no sign that Honda ever progressed in the hybrid realm beyond the level of commitment Toyota demonstrated: singular generic design that whilst they both got in early, didn’t innovate for a decade+ after that! Meanwhile Tesla and BMW and others have moved towards all electric and surpassed the token (though environmentall important) efforts of the Japanese. I mean, come on, Sky coverage last weekend suggested Honda are merely in F1 for their engineers to learn, at McLaren’s expense!

They had a year of zero development restrictions before they entered whilst others had to operate restricted. This year they’ve only the 4 PU limit, not the token system.

Worst of all, our Danny Ric can’t get a decent donk out of those selfish frogs who are putting their works team first … and there’s zero pressure on them from the media because of these eeejiot Nipponese!

Being consistently 3rd or worse in the power unit formula they pushed for as much as anyone else, is a disgrace Renault are getting away with. Cyril pulled the ultimate rabbit out of his hat by telling his frog superiors it wasn’t his fault, it was there own half-arsed commitment level that was to blame. Now the ‘works’ Renault is going to leave the ONLY genuinely competitive PRIVATEER (not that you ever see the F1 paddock give them the right to that term) since Brawn (who just pinched Honda’s last decent effort and badge-engineered it) in F1 without a decent PU once they surpass them. Unlike the Mercs, can the current Renault regime be trusted to give equal equipment to competing customers? They are already answering this question. Palmer may be floundering, but look how well Hulkenburg is doing with the PU tweaks Renault won’t give to Red Bull. Disgrace. There should be competitive legislation from the FiA against this sort of manipulation.


‘selfish frogs’ – decent way of depicting the French.
I suppose it’ll be ‘arrogant bogs’ when you discuss Mercedes.
Guess you got lucky the moderator took the Friday afternoon off.


Whilst I wouldn’t disagree with a single word you’ve written other key points are the Japanese ‘not invented here’ mentality which largely speaks for itself, there is a belief in large, especially engineering based, Japanese corporations that looking outside the company is a sign of weakness and inefficiency but they are blind to the point that their blinkered view is the single biggest contributor to that inefficiency. The other word is ‘gambatte’ meaning ‘work hard’ i.e. hard work will fix this problem. I suspect there are engineers flogging their guts out working 18~20 hour days but unless and until they seek outside help they will never produce a competitive hybrid power unit however hard they work.

Tornillo Amarillo

I have more anxiety-related questions for a future article :

If Bottas continues being a team driver willing to do 1-2s in raceday, and if Ocon continues his excellent performances to stardom, this summer would you confirm Bottas for 2018 or you seize the opportunity of 10 years of the best prospect champion you can have with Ocon in Merc… ?


Although you say it is an incestuous business, really it’s mixing a finite genepool.

I remember talking to someone at one of the teams and asked why they didn’t just cheat (on something I know in detail where it would be easy). “Sure we could” he said, but one of ours leaves and goes to another team… so they all know we cheat and how, and then one of theirs goes to a different team so that team knows, and before long everyone knows.

If the genes analogy holds true the problem Honda have is too small a genepool – their engine could be called the result of inbreeding.


I don’t see how Honda can fund McLaren for the time it works with Sauber. I think it would be more realistic for Honda to start afresh with Sauber and grow together. Their McLaren days are over. Unless, of course, they get some kind of miracle breakthrough and the engine stops shaking itself apart and generates battery energy.

Tornillo Amarillo

Some questions James or anybody:
1.- is it expensive staff and Is there a gain to Merc to have James Allison?
2.- a gain too to Williams for having Paddy Lowe?
3.- did Honda get secret consulting from Merc?
4.- is the last updated Merc PU a “rocket” that you should just buy to be up there, like Force India and Williams that have convinced McLaren for 2018?
5.- Is Merc shooting its foot itself with this unconfirmed-2018-PU-deal with McLaren?

I need to know ’cause I cannot sleep with this situation… 🙂


1. specialists are paid what they’re paid, James Allison moving is like teams sharing operational knowledge

2. yes, his cars have mostly been winners both at mclaren and Merc, he clearly knows something secret that he takes with him to each team

3. never happened

4. both of the mentioned teams are viable teams, they would be in a similar position with any engine but the Honda, mclaren are a viable team, hence the good chassis year on year

5. Merc don’t fear any customer imo, except rbr cause they have design geniuses in house while mclaren get theirs poached (newey and lowe)

Tornillo Amarillo

Great tks!


So the latest gossip is.
Honda are going to pay for a supply of mercedes engines for mclaren for 1 year while they try to get their act together.
You have to wonder. Is it worth it. If they come back in 2019.they only have 2 yrs before the engine regulations are changed again.


And what does Ron Dennis himself have to say about all of this?


A totally fascinating article fully explaining how Honda got to their present sad state. Many thanks.


Mismanagement/misunderstanding on Honda’s part? Absolutely.
But cant help but think the powers that be in F1 made the PU too complex – needlessly. Look at Renault – Honda are not the only ones suffering.
And perhaps Merc had too much of a say on the future regs. The current situation is also a result of the previous management being too willing to chase the money of getting manufacturers to join F1.
F1 = cutting edge innovation – great but it must be at a controlled cost and complexity.


Once again, Renault pushed for hybrid power, Merc and Ferrari were against it, Renault threatened to leave

that aside, the pu’s are fair imo, would like them around till 2025 but I’m likely on an island with that opinion


What about the way of developing and testing their engine. Honda only made a 1 cilinder for testing instead of a complete engine. Probably the biggest mistake they made. And i’ve heard Honda still uses a simple engine dyno while others use far more advanced stuff which also simulates gforces etc.


The single cylinder approach is used by most of the engine manufacturers, that is definitely not the problem.

You need a range of dynos and test rigs available, I don’t know what Honda have, but I do get the feeling that they don’t run the engine in a mock-up dyno scenario – as is mounted to the car, doing virtual laps.


As a British employee of a major Japanese company I do find the suggested reason for Honda’s poor performance quite fascinating.

The corporate backdrop in Japan is that employee productivity remains stubbornly below European/American equivalents, mainly for cultural reasons and specifically because technology is not fully embraced in the workplace.

Tragically, the historic solution has been for staff to work longer and longer hours, stressing themselves out for no real gain. There is even a word karoshi (“overwork death”) to describe early mortality whether due to suicide or heart attack or similar. The government has put measures in place to combat this – e.g. Even low-ranking middle managers like me are criminally liable if my team does too much overtime. With the prospect of jail in mind, maybe I’m not too keen on telling Watanabe-San to spend more time figuring out why the engine is so slow!

As far as I am aware, Honda is a fairly classic Japanese company (though maybe the F1 bit is different??) so I can readily believe these background factors are playing a significant role in Honda’s current woes, especially since F1 is so bleeding edge and cutthroat.


I still don’t understand the strategy here, which means we don’t have all the details. Mclaren basically cannot win a world title as a customer until at best 2021, so why would they want to break from Honda? Ultimately they should want to stay with them till at least 2022. I get the strong response in public all of a sudden as a sign they are at their wits end, but I still don’t understand why some media outlets are saying they’ve already decided to part with Honda, unless Mclaren literally believe Honda will not build anything competitive over the next three years. I think if Honda solved some of the power and consumption issues alone, they’d be up in the top four.


the details are that mclaren could be making more money by finishing well in the constructors, compared to how much they make now with honda footing the engine bill and acting as a title sponsor of some kind

those details bare weight when you consider mclaren haven’t scored a point yet, if they were 4th best in the constructors and buying engines from Merc they would be better off…heck one could probably stretch that to 6th best

also there’s the weekly reminders that the chassis is good from alonso (fast in corners, slow on straights)


The spelling is “rarefied”.


They did have a western guy at Honda but he left in acrimonious circumstances.. sounds like the japanese are too proud and suffer the asian affliction of saving face.


Anyone expecting Honda to rival their European cohorts in this era of F1 is getting too far ahead. The Japs aren’t like the Europeans – they are not, innovators, period!…And this complex F1 motor requires innovations.
Take a look at second world war machinery innovations- entirely German, British & some American..


The Mitsubishi Zero was a pretty formidable and agile fighter / ground attack plane if a little lightly armoured.


Now compare it to the Me262 or even the tomcat that entered later- these were fighter jets. The Japs entered the war late & should have showcased superior machinery but they hadn’t the capability.


Brawn spoke of the sister love at Honda when he went there in 2007/2008. So this is nothing new. The mistake came from Ron when he didn’t allow Honda to supply other teams. This would have help with the lack of F1 knowledge within the ranks.


So to what degree and how does a driver’s input affect the car design? If a driver has a bias for oversteer is that what direction the engineers go?


fascinating that engineers consider an offer to work for Honda a “no-lose” situation, now I’m thinking that the Honda office is flooded with job applicants from foreigners and the only hiccup is waiting to see what the delayed upgrades do

having said that surely Honda’s program of creative learning would only benefit from having their native engineers work with the foreign ones, seems like a no brainer but maybe there’s more pride in engineering than I know


I think you’ve nailed it JA. I don’t profess to be a Japanese cultural expert, but what i do know of the culture is that the very thing that makes the Japanese strong -their pride and their work ethic, is also the trait that can be their weakness. To complain or to ask for help is seen as a major weakness in the Japanese culture. I have seen it in Japanese baseball -for a pitcher to be taken out or rotated to protect their longevity is seen as a stain on the pitchers character. They are expected to pitch entire games and to pitch when they are injured. Young pitchers are massively over-trained whilst their bodies are still developing -and many endure life long injuries as a result.


Honestly I think you missed the mark on this one, James.

You need a better understanding of Japan, its culture and how things work in the land of the rising sun.

The Japanese are proud of their heritage and they can build better than anyone. They also can frustrate the hell out of you. They wait until they get it right and sometimes that takes a long time. But they do it on their own dime, on their own terms.

Its been that way for a very long time and stealing engineers from other teams is really not their bag.

If they took your suggestion ( in the last paragraph) then they would not be Honda, they would not be Japanese.


“The Japanese are proud of their heritage and they can build better than anyone. “
I agree on the proud part – this is a big reason for their failure; they are building Worst than anyone else at the moment.

“They wait until they get it right and sometimes that takes a long time. But they do it on their own dime, on their own terms. ”
That is all great and wonderful, but F1 is speed, and delivering a working and up to standard motor IN TIME, is of the essence. If anyone decides to join the F1 “dance floor”, they must be able to keep up – their partner is counting on them.

“Its been that way for a very long time and stealing engineers from other teams is really not their bag. ”
No one is talking about stealing – this is technology and to be able to advance all engineers have to broaden their knowledge, new concepts and ideas are determinant in a fluid intellectual environment such as engineering.
It’s a good thing we haven’t use this mentality as species, if we had we would still be using horses as primary means of transportation.

It’s simple: adapt or end up obsolete and disappear. And no, nationality doesn’t matter in this.


I completely disagree but then you and I seem to disagree on most things

I wonder why you read my posts


Its healthy to disagree, respectively. Your posts offer insight.


James – so you don’t think toe-clipper has nailed it then?

Tornillo Amarillo

1 race ban for toe clipper 🙂

Honda misses the point they have to compete, and after these years finishing now with 0 points and last in the WCC… this is not the Japanese style, they are doing something that is not in the Japanese book. It’s not about Japan, it is Honda doing something wrong.
First of all Honda should be reliable and good, finishing races. However, now it’s just a nightmare.


Honda probably has the expertise needed in-house, at least on the ICE side of things. The real question is, are they fully using it? It’s been reported (Racecar Engineering) that Honda’s 2.0 inline four, used in both Superformula and SuperGT, produces well over 600 bhp, and that’s without the benefit of bespoke fuels and lubricants. And the leader of that project intimated that the Superformula engine is more powerful than its F1 cousin. Critically, he also noted that the two projects use the same single cylinder test engine; what I don’t recall at the moment is how much data they share. Note too that in GT500 guise, this engine ran as a part of a hybrid system.

If Hasegawa-San believes that Honda is going in the right direction, I hope he means that the Superformula/SuperGT project team has been drafted in.

I agree with an earlier post to the effect that F1 needs to decide whether it wants spec engines or not: With so many parameters so tightly constrained (bank angle, center of gravity, bore, bore center to center distance, overall weight, number of cylinders), the only thing left is imitation of your competition: You have to engage in headhunting (or industrial espionage) because there’s very little scope for doing things more than one way. Honda would probably crack the code if they could stick to a four cylinder layout, given what they’re doing with the Superformula engine. I can see turbo fours as an option in the next formula. For now, Honda just has to slog on.


As a consumer, I do love turbo fours as these make performance cars more affordable to the everyday buyer.

But as a Formula 1 fan, I would prefer Honda pull out of the sport than F1 get relegated to using turbo fours on F1 cars.


I have no inside knowledge, but what I know about Japanese engineering in general – its precision and clarity and desire to meet specifications – suggests to me not that Honda have the wrong attitude or focus but that their current F1 engineers, with the best will in the world, aren’t talented enough for this job. Looking at the problem like this, if I were McLaren I would walk away fast as soon as I had a new deal, and would be overjoyed even to be able to get a Renault engine in the back of my cars.


Bang! That was the sound, not of the Honda ICE breaking again, but of the hammer hitting the nail on the head. Well said.


F1 is all about wasting a lot of money plus musical chairs to eventually cancel out another teams advantage.
Obviously the mighty money wasting machine would suffer if rules were simplified and budgets capped as a lot of people would be let go in the uk F1 corridor.
Why this matters to the rest of the world is anyone’s guess.
Honda are probably the only honest effort as they try to gain knowledge independently that will put them at the forefront in cars/motorcycles.
I have just seen that Honda seem to be pressing ahead with a Electric and Hybrid motorcycle future so you can guess they dont see the whole mclaren/honda thing as a waste of time and money.More accelerated on the job training.
I guess F1 musical chairs would negate any breakthrough they made as it would quickly be shared and they dont want this.
Mclaren may regret all this bluster very soon and maybe the new boss has played it wrong with typical american insensitivity to other cultures and norms.
It would be nicer if they have a breakthrough soon or at least and amicable split.
Actually a partnership with Sauber would be great for them as Switzerland conveys the right message of a green future and im sure they can bring much to each other with clever new products.


I am absolutely agree with James. Honda (for reasons only known to themselves) chose to develop there power units in isolation, as if they could somehow magically come up with the holy grail. The Japanese have long been known as developers rather than innovators by taking an idea and improving it. So not taking advice from those in the know, not moving their operation to England to be close to the action, have all created an unholy mess for them and McLaren. History says they will come right but it has been a painful experience for them, McLaren and their drivers in the meantime.


Good article. The conclusion therefore is that this design of hybrid technology has no future value because an efficient design can not be replicated through engineering. It can only be teplicated through the grapevine; you have to be told how it works by someone who already knows.


That’s the case with any F1 technology be it V8 or aero gimmicks like blown diffusers

The knowledge is pooled

It’s what makes it really hard to do well with a new F1 team outside UK unless you work really hard at pulling in staff from other teams regularly


Honda have a base in the UK and if they had expanded that for engine development things may have gone better as that cultural barrier may well have been lower and other expertise closer.


At the innovation stage I agree; it’s quicker and cheaper to learn from others. But I believe there is no future in a technology that can’t be replicated. Dante said there can be no real knowledge if what is learned is not retained.


Good analysis. Honda’s insular attitude will be the end of their F1 engine business unless they accept a project manager from outside who is empowered to get the right resources on board. It didn’t happen last time they were in F1, and sadly I don’t see it happening now. Perhaps they’ll end up selling their engine to Ross Brawn for a quid and let’s see what he does with it.


Not sell it to Ross Brawn but the other RB. A couple of months of tinkering from Mario in the mythical Building Nine and it would be a race winner for sure!


Interesting article James thank you especially the penultimate para. Do you really think Honda will pay for McClaren to use Merc engines. Oh the shame! If so will it be for one year or for the rest of the hybrid era with McHonda reuniting at the start of the new regs?

Keep up the excellent work.


They have. Honda were upset about the suggestion by all accounts.


No idea but they owe them big time and the situation needs resolving urgently

That’s what I would look to broker if I were at McLaren


Tend to disagree. Mclaren wanted out of their relationship with Mercedes when Mercedes wanted their own team because they thought they would never get a latest spec engine and would have to pay for them. Ron Dennis made the decision to cut ties, took a *HUGE* risk going with Honda, plus getting free engines and cash and Mclaren is now paying for that decision- big time. Honda owes Mclaren nothing.


James your article does’t mention that Giles Simon (former Ferrari engine engineer) was actually sacked by Honda at the beginning of the year. So Honda did have external expertise yet went backwards this year. Surely you must know the reasons why he was sacked.

I personally believe based on the historic evidence Honda is incapable of producing a powerful, efficient and reliable engine.

This article from 2013 about the development of Honda’s V8 engine is a fascinating read and the similarities with the current issues is remarkable.

To quote “‘We encountered seven engine failures in the course of 18 grand prix weekends, all of which were reciprocation-related problems. Many of them were caused by the uneven quality of the parts affected by vibration in the crankshaft area. As a result we had to improve the quality control process,’ explains Nakamoto. ‘The long stroke increases piston speed and that makes durability harder to achieve. Our early season reliability problems may also be related to this.’
Even the victory in Hungary was overshadowed by an engine problem, as Sakuhara admits: ‘The Victory in Hungary was strange for us, as on qualifying day we had an engine failure which initially was a mystery as the part that failed had never done so before. But the cause was found to be a higher than normal oil temperature at the previous race in Germany. This forced us to investigate the relationship between higher oil temperatures and higher engine revs.’

Sound familiar?


Yes scary really. They have learned nothing it seems.


Yes James, its all true. Honda basically started the programme as a research project and in all the public statements in 2014 backs this up. After the 2014 debacle they realised that an R&D project like this wasn’t going to cut it. Now, I have worked in R&D and I can tell you that in Western style Democracies if you don’t have the knowledge you need you either get someone that does or you go home. Culturally this is simply too hard to swallow for Japan Inc – where at Board of Director level they continue to suffer under the hubris of being intellectually superior to other countries

I don’t think that white label Mercedes engines works for Honda again for Cultural reasons though it was and is a cunning approach that might have satisfied some in Japan – but my understanding is there was a major row between Brown and Hasegawa San over the notion – but practically it is the most acceptable way forward for both: it just won’t happen. What I hear is that McLaren is still trying to call whether to introduce a 3 pointed star engine after the summer break, or, whether to wait until 2018. The reason for this delay of course is Fernando Alonso. If they intro the Merc based chassis this season and can’t get into the top 3, then Fernando will go. But it is virtually impossible to get that car handling like the MCL 32 (A) and it is a HUGE undertaking to do 2 brand new cars in the same year. Personally I don’t think they have the choice because even if they said ” hey “nando we will have the Merc at the back of us next year” he will understand that nothing in F1 is guaranteed.


lol they can’t just slot a Mercedes engine in! It won’t fit! They would have to redesign the whole car. I’m not sure where you got this idea. The Mercedes engine would be for NEXT year 🙂


If McLaren are making their decisions based on what Alonso tells them to do, then they truly are bigger fools than you or I could imagine.


I have read a few things regarding what if the mclaren chassis had the merc engine in the back of it where would they be in the pecking order? 3rd best team?


According to “Motor und Sport” they were losing 1.2 seconds a lap on the straights. That margin would have put them where Botas was, so probably 3rd team


Of course but the word is that they have done just that. As I have tried to make clear, that is the reason that they can’t be sure of the chassis: its different in most respects.


3rd at best.
The Aids.


Thank you James. Excellent article with an insight I would never have thought of.


Excellent Article! Again the project based team work concept of Europeans is winning over the centrally controlled Japanese Hierarchical system. In modern times Honda only got stronger (Brawn GP 2009) by hiring Ross Brawn, not through their Japanese Engineers


Honda’s failure has been epic: I can remember in the ’70s the very person who first told me he reckoned Honda made the best engines in the world. Ever since, I’ve paid attention to Honda, the road cars, the racing engines, rediscovered their racing heritage via motorbikes and the TT, the mythology of their founder Soichiro Honda…. and was convinced their return to F1 would be… brilliant. But… epic failure. It’s been as painful as it can get!! Thanks for the analysis. Surely if you understand it James, and this article greatly articulates in detail what’s been said this last year, surely Honda must understand it. And they could/should ‘fix it’? Even if it means a rapid change of corporate culture withint their F1 department? Surely success, if it’s the priority, demands it? Anyway, thanks.


And then you have Renault, they have STOPPED work on their 2017 engine, to work on a ‘totally new’ idea for 2018. (Wonder what that is?) Not hard to imagine why Red Bull is upset. With only 6 races done and the rest of the season left, and no improvement expected, all of the great ideas that Adrian can think up, will be for naught. No wonder Max is upset. This is an expensive game that can be very frustrating when you get behind like this with such an expensive component of the car that takes years to deal with. Red Bull cannot do ANYTHING about it. Three main stories in F1 this year: (1) Ferrari and Mercedes are close. (2) Two of the engine manufacturers have weaker engines and cannot win (unless it rains). (3) Cost factors, which have been a perennial issue, though Force India maybe has seen a break through?.


verstappen had the opportunity to drive for mercedes and chose redbull..


Certainly, apart from the rotation of information, I am of the view, companies like Renault and Honda need to partake in industrial espionage too as this is a common practice in the sport

On the topic of Honda reuniting with Mclaren after an injection of know-how, personally I don’t think it would still work because in life if a relationship doesn’t work out, it’s better to cut your losses and try your luck elsewhere, otherwise, you will just end up getting the same results as before.


maclaren cut their losses with mercedes and tried their luck with honda out of choice..


@ aveli

It’s true the team made a mistake to split with the Mercedes partnership but nobody in their wildest dreams expected Honda would struggle with the new regs


Surely after three years, the top heads at Honda can see things are completely wrong. The strange thing is, the Japanese are so proud that they won’t employ from outside. But the longer this debacle goes on, it’s gonna be obvious more than ever that they need to get some specialist help, from Europe or wherever. I find it hard to believe in today’s world, were people work across borders, countries, continents, that the Japanese are still reluctant to take the best people for the job, where ever they’re from. The longer this goes on,the more idiotic the whole Honda program seems. And that’s a shame.


Great article !


Honda should just pull the plug on F1 now, citing an overly expensive and technically unworkable engine formula, thanks directly to Todt and the FIA.
Honda can point to only 5 or 6 cars being competitive out of the bunch as easy rationale for bailing out of F1’s current administrative mess.
Two more empty grid boxes are really what’s needed to smarten up the FIA and its current boss.


Craig is absolutely right and attributes the blame for this fiasco in the right place. Todt, the FIA and maybe even a couple of the top teams that insisted and voted for this stupid formula. We need the whole thing to revert to the last iteration, at least for the PU’s. I would even lose the big rear tyres and some of the stupid aero. F1 was in the sweet spot before this stupid set of changes that lead to it becoming at most a 4 car formula and usually a 2 car formula. #stupidengines


Is Jean Todt the weakest president in the FIA history?

Seems like Mercedes and Ferrari are the ones who run the show and make all the decisions. FIA just nod their head and agree.


Mercedes are running the show and I get the feeling that their greatest concession would be to allow their customer engine cars to run an newer update couple of tenths faster unit, so they are only lapped once in a race…

Come on Dr Z, Merc should want simplification, want competition and want wheel to wheel racing, like Ron taking a risk with Alain and Ayrton in the same car!

Merc should now want their brand to be about destroying wheel to wheel racing, restricting their customer engine cars or monopolising F1.


James, how much are these guys getting paid, and how much more gets offered to tempt them. ?

Don’t they have clauses prohibiting them from working in the field?

Dan the battery man

James, how much would it cost Big Mac or Redbull to start their own engine program?


Big Mac need a JV for their next road car engine let alone F1. And F1 engines only have a short lifespan (and I don’t mean 10 laps).


Way too much and they would need the top guys to leave their posts and come across

Not feasible – these engines are insanely complex!



Who builds the engines on the Mclaren road cars? Is is still Mercedes or do they build it themselves these days?

Mclaren should invest in an engine program for the next generation of F1 engines. It is really the only way they will be able to bring the fight to the other top teams.


Ricardo I believe. At least Ferrari, Honda and Renault build their own engines with their own people rather than buying the company and changing the name. I wonder how many people from Brixworth (or Affalterbach for that matter) have set foot in a Mercedes factory.


“these engines are insanely complex” …………….. precisely James. Which is why manufacturers aren’t exactly jumping over themselves to get into F1. Honda were the one brave enough to have a go and now they are getting pilloried for it. The fact is the blame should not be directed at Honda, the current F1 regulations are the issue and until they are more realistic then they, Honda, might well be the last to have a go.


Agreed too. Lets hope the balance is not found as a result of a lengthy process of knee jerk reactions either. Ultimately F1 should be balls out not conservative!


Agreed and that is being worked on by Brawn, teams and FIA also as part of the cost control side

Simplification is the name of the game, but still using cutting edge tech just some standardised parts


Very interesting piece.

Apart from a temporary or a definitive separation, which are the other alternative plans Boullier is talking of?

For example,
If Mercedes opposes to give McLaren engines could McLaren try to get a Renault engine?

Do you see any possibility for McLaren to continue with Honda in 2018 or that is not even an option on the table?



Intriguing article JAF1 👍


In the past, engineers could always pop out and buy an original version of the engine they wanted to copy and improve upon. There are none of the current F1 V6 engines available for Honda to ship home and pull apart. When McLaren had the Mercedes V6s in 2014, the engines were removed from the cars between races and only Mercedes engineers were allowed to touch the engines. All Honda had to go on were photographs and some gossip when they were initially designing their own V6. Any chance of some typical F1 skullduggery was lost!

Some of the blame should be attached to Ron Dennis. He should have known the last F1 Honda engine, the V8, wasn’t very good, did he really believe that after a 6 year lay off, they’d soon be up to speed? Honda were facing a huge learning curve, not only to catch up, but to learn the new technology. I’m not surprised they are failing.


They might have just had photos and skullduggery but they also had 12 months to work on it. The other teams were so scared of Honda they lobbied for the token system


@Axel Knutt – wrong. The FIA bought in the token system in an effort to cut costs. The manufacturers would have wanted to be able to continually update their engines, tokens put a limit on that happening.

Stephen Taylor

James in hindsight wouldn’t it have been better for a Honda to sign a deal with a smaller team like Sauber first where there is less pressure to be a frontrunner rather than go gun ho into deal with a big team like McLaren from the off. Will Sauber accept potentially being used as a test bed next year- knowing the engine probably will still have it’s problem . Have you asked anyone from Sauber whether they are starting to regret a 2018 deal with Honda?


who in their right mind would fund your ex-wife to get in bed with a rival for a year while you resolve your short comings in hopes of reconciling your marriage, even if your rival has a paper bag over their head so joe public turns a blind eye.. oh right, maybe honda.


Pretty sure that is an Eastenders plot from last year.


I do not think moving to Japan is as much of a ‘no lose’ scenario as some of F1’s engineers believe. The Japanese way of working is extremely prescriptive, decisions are made from the top down and authority is jealously guarded. Changing the direction of a product’s development takes a long time, assuming the project supervisor (or his supervisor, or the director etc) is willing to entertain such ‘dissent’ at all. Being so bold as to disagree with the opinion of management or even deliver results that contradict it is met with the kind of response you would expect from swearing at the CEO in a Western company. I can well believe Honda telling Mclaren that the engine matched Mercedes power, because Hasegawa Sama said it would match Mercedes, so everyone else had to say it did match Mercedes for fear of contradicting Hasegawa. Mike Gascoyne famously ran into this brick wall mentality when in charge of Toyota F1, I’m willing to bet that Gilles Simon left Honda over a similar impasse. Going to Honda could be well paid, but enormously frustrating to an engineer used to having a relatively high degree independance and more pimportantly, used to being listened to. I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be succesful.


Honda pride getting in the way of being practical. They need to do what Hyundai has done. Hire the best regardless of their ethnic origin,


Sorry to break it you James, but outside of a very small fraternity of F1 followers, nobody cares about a manufacturer’s success or failure in F1 or other forms of racing. If i am spending 40k $ on a new car, i wouldn’t choose a Mercedes over Acura (Honda’s luxury arm in US) based on mercedes F1 success. This is precisely the reason why BMW and Toyota have record sales today than they did during their F1 years . Road car sales and brand equity is created through decades of blood and sweat of making cars that last years , that are safe, reliable with a sound after market service. Motorsports is an expensive marketing tool that’s all. Nobody cares about Honda’s trials and tribulations in F1. They are selling more cars than ever before.

Honda knows how to build a good engine and win in motorsports. They’ve won everything there is to be won in every form of motorsports. This period of painful adjustment in F1 is what they went through in the 60s when they first tried their hands in motorcycle racing. Their struggle, the mockery from their rivals and finally success is well documented in Matt Oxley’s book on Honda racing.

Honda’s fault was marrying a premier team like Mclaren which is used to success. Remember how the BMW-Williams relationship went south after few years ? Honda should have learnt their lesson from BMW’s experience, and went with a lesser team like Sauber or Torro Rosso or even Maurissia . Build an engine good enough to endure the punishment of modern day F1, and then expand the horizon. Instead they chose a high maintenance partner like Mclaren.


Sorry to break it to you zombie, but the manufacturers don’t spend hundreds of millions on F1 programmes because there isn’t a marketing benefit….


Sure. F1 as one of the many marketing tools, yes, but it has little to no correlation with sales or brand equity. Cars are the second or third most expensive investment one makes after homes and student loans. And if someone buys an automobile based on a manufacturer’s success in F1, then more force to them. If success in F1 was such a supreme barometer of sales and brand equity, why are 8 out of 10 top car makers in the world sitting outside the F1 circus ?


I agree with this. If I were to go and buy a Mercedes, it won’t be because they have been the best team for 3 years in F1. I would buy it because they are building the best available road car that is relevant to what I want. I’m sure that majority of other car buyers are in the same line of thinking.


Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday

That’s why every motor company has ever competed in motor sport.
You can think that you’re are not influenced by advertising/marketing but the fact that you’d choose a “luxury” vehicle shows that you are already under the spell of Madison Avenue.


think that you’re are not influenced by advertising/marketing

I’s funny, most people say/believe they aren’t influenced by advertising, but that does rather beg the question why so many (very smart people) spend so much money on it. If it’s all just an illusion you’d have thought someone would’ve spotted it by now.


Hi Zombie,

I think F1 has many layers of appreciation and wow factor mate….engines are a very important component!


So Honda should have partnered with Sauber instead of McLaren because then no one would expect them to be competitive?
Aim for mediocrity because it’s easier to achieve your goals!


I’m saying Honda partnering with a mid-grid or even tailend teams would’ve bought them valuable time to develop a good engine without all the drama and distraction and bad PR that comes with being associated with a top team like Mclaren that has now fallen off the graces. BMW did well with Sauber, so why not Honda ?


Agree. It may not matter when they are coming last or in the middle. No one cares.

But if they were winning f1 it would open up a ton of marketing opportunities. That’s what they were striving for.


outside of a very small fraternity of F1 followers, nobody cares about a manufacturer’s success or failure in F1

I’m not so sure about that – millions upon millions of viewers watch every GP. Personally I find it hard to imagine that some of them aren’t influenced in their buying decisions based upon on-track performance. Here is an excerpt from an article I read earlier in the year:

‘Mercedes is not only winning on the race tracks of the world, it is also winning in the showrooms. Today, the company’s parent Daimler AG announced that Mercedes has overtaken BMW as the biggest manufacturer of premium cars. The two German firms and Audi have been fighting for the position since 2005 when BMW moved ahead of Mercedes. Six years later Mercedes was pushed down to third by Audi, but that triggered the current push to regain the top spot.
The success helped to drive up Daimler’s profits, which rose to €8.8 billion on a turnover of €153.3 billion. The company’s overall vehicle sales jumped by five percent and Mercedes brand sales went up 10 percent to a record 2.19 million cars.’
So, it is clear that someone is buying their cars and the turnaround followed their on track success – maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe it’s not.


@ C63…but when you decided to make a change you didn’t decide to
buy a replacement ….. so what did you replace the Merc with? A Mclaren, a 458 or what?.


Lol – sadly nothing so exotic (also I need 4 seats).
Initially I was going to get another C63 (the 4 litre bi-turbo model). Unfortunately they are in short supply (presumably because so many people want one following their F1 success ) and my choice was to wait +6 months for a new one or put a deposit on their demonstrator and wait 3 months whilst they continued to use it for demo’s before I could take it away. I didn’t fancy the latter option and I’m too impatient for the former so, as I’ve always liked M cars,I got an M4 . Someone’s cancelled order I guess and I had to wait only a week 😊


@ C63….very cool car mon ami. How does it compare? Twelve months ago i bought the new Audi A3 saloon totally specced up that suited my non freeway driving but i got bored and i bought a new A5 S Line with comp and sports + quattro. Considered a Jaguar XF and a BMW 4 coupe but Audi did such a sweet deal i would have been insane not to take it!!! Enjoy your new wheels.


How does it compare?

I’m not sure if my first reply went through- apologies if it did.
It’s early days but I like it. I was a bit concerned about losing the V8 and cc’s but apart from the sound being different you wouldn’t know. Just as much umph. It’s also lighter so it feels more nimble .
I liked your comment about getting bored with your A3 – I recognised something of myself there 😊


@ C63…thanks for the comments. V8’s are special and the actual feel [unmistakeable rumble] is hard to dispense with. I actually looked at an M4 today which was parked nearby and it looks great and i might add, purposeful. They are relatively uncommon here although our roads are full of exotics, the ‘Gold Coast’ being a cross between an LA/Floridian kind of environment. After driving back some 200kms from the Audi agency yesterday along the main freeway i was thoroughly happy to be back into the A5 again. Superb cruiser which can easily morph through suspension and S Tronic onboard tweaks into something very nifty…for this old guy that is hahaha.


C63, all major car manufacturers are benefiting from a robust economy world wide and low gasoline prices helping them rake in record sales. Mercedes largest market in the world are US and China – two nations that arent particularly enamored of F1 . Btw, Ferrari had it really rough in F1 in 2015 and 2016, and yet they had record sales both years. There is a clear disconnection between sales,brand equity and motor racing. Similarly what explains Honda and Toyota’s record sales ? To say Honda’s struggle in F1 will damage the brand is exaggeration and aggrandization of F1. Recalls and safety incidents like the ones VW and Toyota had ? Now those are the things that do real brand damage, not F1.


There is a clear disconnection between sales,brand equity and motor racing

I’m not saying you’re wrong because I don’t know whether you are or you aren’t. But let’s say you’re right – that being the case why do the motor manufacturers spend so much time, money and effort to compete at the top level if no one actually cares? That’s the bit where you argument falls flat (for me). I don’t know what the viewing figures are but there must be tens or even hundreds of millions of viewers world wide watching every single GP – if only 10% are influenced in their buying decision that’s an awful lot of potential buyers won or lost.
As for Ferrari’s record sales – my understanding is they were always oversubscribed as LDM used to deliberately keep the cars in short supply to increase their desirability. This led to the rather ridiculous situation where people could buy their new Ferrari, run it for a couple of months and then sell it back to the dealer for a profit (who then sold it for even more profit to someone who was too impatient to wait). Marchionne recognised there was room to increase capacity without damaging the brand and Ferrari could increase their profits rather than handing it to their punters. At least that’s what I read.
On your final point that recalls do more damage – how has Toyota managed to combine record sales with a massive recall? That appears to be contradictory to your argument. Or have I misunderstood – it wouldn’t be the first time 🙂


F1 has an average viewership of around 400m viewers/race. If 10% of them were influenced by the sport to buy a particular car, that’s 40 million people buying cars because of F1 !! 8 out of top 10 car manufacturers in the world do not participate in F1. 4 out of top 5 car companies in the world are not in F1. They ought to be fools if they are throwing away 40 million potential customers !

Recalls and safety issues do infinitely more damage to a brand than the finishing order in F1. Look what happened to Toyota’s sales and revenue post 2009-10 safety recalls. Job losses, criminal indictment and penalty and billions in settlement and recalls. It wasnt until 2012 that Toyota started regaining the lost sales to its competitors. Again, VW stock lost 30% after the scandal. Billions lost in market capital. VW set aside 7.2 billion dollars for settlement. And the brand image they tried so hard to build in US for 30 years has been permanently tarnished. If you think the implications from such serious events are the same as a engine maker coming last in F1, then i’d say we live in 2 different planets !

LDM may have kept Ferrari numbers low to maintain exclusivity. Sergio M increased production since Ferrari was a cashcow for FCA, and it made sense to increase production and profits before listing the brand on the stock market. Point is, Ferrari sales has increased and not decreased even though they’ve won only 1 title in the last 13 years.

As for Honda, they just launched the Type R in US. The dealerships within 500 mile radius of where i live all have mark-ups of anywhere from $8000 to $25000 ! So much for F1 doing brand damage to their brand !


Once again, I’ll say that I’m not claiming you are are wrong as I don’t know whether you are or your aren’t.
However, you’ve now started putting words in my mouth in order to prove your point. I didn’t say 10% of viewers were influenced by what they saw, I said what if they were. As for their alleged foolishness in not participating in F1 – surely you’ve got to be winning if you are to look good and appeal to the punters. They can’t all win. Besides that, by no means do all manufacturers attract the type of customer who is interested in racing – it’s more subtle than that as I’m sure you are aware .
And on your final point regarding the type r launch – earlier you state that the USA is not much enamoured with F1 (fair point) – you can’t then use the type r launch in the US as proof that poor reliability in F1 has no impact in sales in a country which by and large doesn’t tune in.
As I said right at the start – why do the manufacturers spend so much and try so hard to win if no one cares (which is your assertion)?
These people aren’t daft and they must have done their sums – there has to be something in it for them.


In your previous post you said and i quote “if only 10% are influenced in their buying decision that’s an awful lot of potential buyers won or lost.”. I’m saying 10% of F1 viewership is half of global car sales ! And more than the combined car sales of two of the largest car markets in the world – US and China. If 8 out of top 10 car makers in the world don’t care about F1, what does that tell you ? Like i said, F1 is one of the many marketing exercises, but to claim a manufacturer coming last in F1 will damage the “brand reputation” is silly and preposterous ! F1 or any other form of motorsport is just not that important in the larger scheme of things.

Honda’s global sales,like that of all major car manufacturers, has been on the rise since the world economy started recovering in 2012. 2016 was a record year for Honda – not just in US and China sales, but global sales. They had record production and sales in US,China and rest of Asia (including Japan). So what’s left ? Africa and Europe ? Honda or other Asian car makers have never been strong in Europe, even then, the sales figure of Honda Europe has barely budged the last 8 years.

Btw, Albert Biermann – the man responsible for many of the modern day BMW M cars now heads Hyundai-KIA groups performance division. He was asked recently if Hyundai is interested in participating in F1, and his response was “there are better ways to burn money than in F1”. Let FIA remove the distribution of profits among the top teams, and we’ll see how long top manufacturers remain in the sport.

Remember, when Honda first entered motor racing in 60s, Honda was an unknown,obscure brand like all other Japanese brands that were still in infancy and were living on technological largess from western companies. Soichiro Honda thought motorsports and the intensity of competition will help Japanese engineers innovate rapidly and learn things faster than on factory floors. Then there was also flying the banner of an unknown brand in western nations that were pretty much the only market available for auto makers those days. Today, Honda is a household brand worldwide, they dont need F1 to get brand recognition or sales or even road car technology. Toyota and BMW quit F1 when the recession hit precisely for this reason . F1 is an expensive marketing ploy, just like buying ad slots in superbowl or world cup football, nothing more , nothing less.


Zombie, I keep saying it – I don’t know whether you are right or you’re wrong . But I can’t see why the likes of Mercedes would spend so much and try so hard competing in F1 if there wasn’t something in it for them. If it was as straightforward as you claim, then why would they employ all those teams of people when they could simply consult an expert on an Internet forum for free ?
If there are 400 million viewers (not sure it’s that many) for each GP do you honestly think it matters not a jot what they think having watched a race. That there isn’t a seed planted in some of those minds (good or bad) that will influence a later buying decision?


There is something in it for Mercedes and it is called as supplemental marketing and prize/sponsorship money that covers half of their running costs. If Mercedes was a mid-grid struggling team, do you think it would have done “brand damage” to the near 100 yr old reputation of car making ? Every sales yardstick out there proves success in motorsports does not convert into success in sales figures. Car buying is too big a financial decision to let a brand winning a world title somewhere dictate one’s decision. And hence the reluctance of all except 4 of global car manufacturers not to compete in F1.


Zombie – I think we may be at cross purposes . I’m not suggesting that everyone watching rushes out and buys a Merc just because they are winning. But from personal experience I can tell you that Hamilton joining Merc and their success put them on my radar . I had a 911 and needed something with a bigger boot (luggage space) and better back seats but I didn’t want to give up performance. I hadn’t considered an AMG until Ham joined the team and then I started looking – of course I liked the car and didn’t buy it just because I’m a fan, but I’d be lying if I said my decision wasn’t influenced initially in some part by their involvement in F1. The question is how many thousands of others round the world were similarly influenced or do you think I’m unique ? The massive hike in AMG sales would suggest I’n not alone ……


@C63, largely agree with you, although I’d say a big part of the reason for BMW’s decline was just most of their cars became dog-ugly for many years. Then Audi rose up from the mid-2000s and decimated the market as Joe Public knew it, while recession-hit Merc (whose renowned quality/reliability was also declining) took years to react (anyone remember what the pre-2012 A-Class looked like?), but I do think since their success in F1 (largely down to the lock-down freeze on the new 2014 engine regs) they’ve been on the ascendency ever since, thanks in no small part to their newly-gained F1 status as world beaters.

In that regard, for me Merc have a vibe reminiscent of Red Bull – a kind of nouveau riche team in terms of success. Both teams benefited a great deal from Ferrari’s simultaneous decline from the cutting edge of F1. Now it looks like the behind-the-scenes changes and upgrades Ferrari made during 2016, to infrastructure and operations, are putting the brakes on that.



Here is a bit more, from a different article on the same subject where Dr Z was asked whether he attributed Merc’s success to their involvement in F1:

‘Mercedes sales have effectively doubled since 2009, going from just over one million to last year’s two million. Its subsidiary Mercedes-AMG recorded 44.1 percent growth in 2016 and has more than tripled its sales in the past three years. The main Mercedes companies has enjoyed six consecutive record years with double digit growth each year. It has now become the leading premium car company in the world.
“It’s difficult to scientifically develop a correlation between our efforts and success in motor sport and our success on the business side,” Zetsche admitted, “but I’m totally convinced that it is not by accident that in the last three years our brand has developed a fantastic momentum and coolness factor – and this resulted ultimately in lots of sales. At the same time, we took off in motor sport and I think that is not by accident, there is a strong correlation in both directions. We are convinced that the Mercedes brand is defined on the one hand by its intelligence and coolness that is a factor that is based on rationality, and on the other side emotions. Motor sport represents both. On the one hand it is pure emotion, but on the other requires intelligence of the best technical solutions at the same time”.

“There are hundreds of millions of viewers for every race on TV screens around the globe and this is comparable only with events like the World Cup or Olympic Games. The only difference is that it is not every fourth year but this year 21 times in one year. That’s a great platform and therefore extremely important for us.”


When did Honda win Le Mans or a global Endurance championship?

Have you not seen the new Honda commercials…what’s that tag line again, “Inside every Honda road car is the heart of a race car.”


Mercedes being in F1 may not have influenced your buying decision but they have a whole load of marketing numbers that tell them that it is a great way to promote their product. Honda saw that and wanted a apart of it – shame they couldn’t deliver.

Aaron Fothergill

Didn’t Jenson Button and Ross Braun mention the rotation of Honda’s F1 engineers to their road car business on a too regular basis as one of Honda’s biggest problems in the run up to leaving at the end of 2008 too?
Combine all of the above with the extra distance a broken engine has to be sent for analysis compared to the other teams and they’re already at a disandantage. I’m surprised Honda doesn’t set up an F1 power unit factory in Europe somewhere if they’re really serious.


How long is an F1 motor on the airplane to Japan, if it is sent from Montreal?
And how long would it be under way if it is sent to Europe? The Geo location isn’t the problem, the expertise is.
One thing to keep in mind, While the PU’s are “petrol engines”, they are closer related to diesel engines than to all other petrol engines in the world. And who has most experience with building high performance diesels?


@Aaron, yes, setting up a European base would make sense in this regard, like Toyota F1 team did in Germany.


A European based head quarters would make sense … even Toyota did it with their WRC and WEC teams.
None so blind as those that will not see!


Interesting insight, James. That said, I think Honda have been so dire, McLaren will want a divorce rather than a trial separation. The 30kph straight line deficit to Ferrari in Canada was the final straw for me.


switch to Merc units while Honda sort out their problems at Sauber makes perfect sense, but i’d be surprised if Honda continue to fund McLaren during their break. i doubt Honda will sort out their engine in a single year too.


I thought it was so strange when they announced they were going with a completely new design this year right as it seemed like they were finally starting to make a little bit of progress towards the end of last season. “Hey, after two years we’re just starting to kind of get a grip on what we’re doing, let’s start over!”


James, do you see recruitment to F1 from Sports Car prototypes since Audi/Porsche/Toyota engineering have also had similar developments in the realm of improving driveability through better communication between the recovery systems/engine/driveline?


This is the best detailed explanation I’ve seen anywhere – while most people may have been aware of this at a high level, the way James has broken this down is excellent. Thanks James!


With such long lead times should Honda just say “give up” and start on the next set of regulations?


honda will do as they please..


I think the new owners should take a look at making it less difficult for teams to get to grips with the technology… being seconds behind is just not competitive, and Renault and Honda need help. It’s great if you are leading the pack, but the rich just get richer so it’s been going on for too long.

I actually wonder if Mclaren are hoping to switch to Mercedes engines after the summer break, and then swap back to Honda next year hoping that they’ll have solved something. Not sure how possible that would be, but if they already know they won’t score any points this year…Honda should just but intelligence now and then save the innovative developments for in home…


They should really ditch these vacuum cleaners for the next iteration of F1 engines. Going back to V8 is really the most logical option with a 100kg fuel limit per race. No HP limit and no rev limit.

Forget road relevance, that should come from WEC. Nothing about F1 is road relevant. It is supposed to be about the best drivers in the world.


Going back to horse drawn cars would be even better. V8’s are dead fish if you only give them 100kg fuel per race. If simple and cost effective is most important, F1 should go for a 4 cyl inline turbo engine with a standardised but unlimited ERS package.


f1 is a competition where one team wins and another comes last. why would one team need moe help than another?
they can’t all finish first…


So true. No one cried when Merc couldn’t win a race. Nobody expected RB to give them help. Its a competition. Sometimes a team doesn’t win for years. Some teams disappear due to their failure to perform. Macca must make changes, and get better to return to the front. Or they can mimic Williams, or worse still Lotus. Its their choice, and their success or otherwise is in their own hands just as it should be.


F1 shouldn’t have an example of a manufacturer spending hundreds of millions over several years still being unable to even be competitive, still unable to finish races, unable to go more than 2 races without an engine change. It would make the already sparse number of manufacturers dwindle, and dissuade external manufacturers from coming in.


it doesn’t matter how much money a team has or spends. f1 is a competition with clear rules of engagement. there is no room in f1 for prejudice or favouritism. i doubt many would watch f1 knowing that the order of race finishes are fixed depending on how much a manufacturer spends for how long..

graham shevlin

From what I can tell, Jonathan neale of mclaren is in negotiations with honda over the partnership. mclaren wants stiffer performance clauses, honda wants to reduce the amount of money it is paying mclaren to support the team.
This sounds to me like a partnership heading for termination. Honda might be wanting to dial back support for the current program until the new engine regulations are implemented, so that they can focus on building a PU for those new regulations. They would do just enough work on the existing PU to give Sauber something to race with in 2018 and 2019, while working on a PU for the new regulations.


If Honda want to be around for the next era of engine formula, they should be working on a new engine right now, not waiting to see what’s going on between them and McLaren with the current PU.
PS where do you get your inside knowledge of Jonathan Neal?


it doesn’t matter how many new regulations are brought in, honda will not be competitive against mercedes ferrari and renault..


Where do you get this info from? I had a feeling there was no performance clause in the agreement. Why would Honda give McLaren this leverage now? To give them rope to be hung with?


If Honda were a band, they’d be Dire Straits…


Sultans of s*** ?


Money for nothing.
PUs for free.


More like ‘One Direction’….downwards.


As a lifelong F1 fan and Mclaren fan and Mclaren car owner I find it utterly depressing that Honda have failed themselves Mclaren and the sport so badly.
The Honda top brass should all fall on their swords at the next race.


I’ll give you a fiver for it before the engine pops.


Great insight. It really seems to boil down to hubris. Honda is too proud to bring in outside help and they believe they can fix it themselves.

While the solution of Honda still funding McLaren next year and working on their program with Sauber, then returning to McLaren stronger in 2019 sounds romantic, I don’t see it happening. I think McLaren’s and Honda’s reputations among sponsors are too damaged for McLaren to risk going back to them. Sponsors would not want to commit to a partnership that has a history of failure.


exactly… McLaren won’t be going back to Honda for decades if ever
(unless they suddenly build an awesome race winning engine and suddenly their old disputes with be but a memory)


Liberty and FIA needs to decide what they actually want.
They want cheaper engines and more manufacturers but they ask complicated engines that needs millions and millions of R&D and don’t allow any testing.
On top of that they want all engines to be 0.3 seconds of each other. With that requirement, it’d be better to make it a spec series. At least it’ll be cheaper and everyone will have the same equipment to fight with.
Just set the max output to 1500 bhp, 18,000 rpm and 100 kgs of fuel. Let the teams decide if they want V6/V8/V10/Hybrid/turbo. I’m sure a lot more companies will be interested in providing engines and there will be innovation and variety.


Very good point


I am actually nearly ready for a spec series after the overall engine debacle that we have had for the last number of years. I never though I would say that, but the Mercedes dominance has spoiled the sport. Ok, we have Ferrari winning a couple but I think it is now back to business as usual from the Canadian GP.


I think that Mercedes are morally obliged to throw the odd bone or two to their competitors. Probably two more races this year in the hope that RB can pick one up.


you don’t need to limit HP/kW.
A fixed rev limit, fuel consumption, final drive ratio and weight limit will cover it.
Plus a limit on aero development..
This would give you close racing and less of a spending war that determines the victorious team.


Teams will always find a way to spend all the money they have to make car go faster. Front running teams will always be more attractive to sponsors, and prize money goes to those teams…

The worry was that if it was open season on configuration someone would come in and spend an absolute fortune on different configurations (it was said at the end of the last Turbo era, Ford had always had V8s so they built that, Ferrari always V12, so they built that. Renault split the difference with a V10, and Honda… they had a programme for each and went with the V10, changing to V12 when it looked better).
Fuel flow restrictions are there to stop engines having massive levels of boost and running an overtaking mode which has such an excess of power it becomes dangerous. But I must admit I’m for saying “You have this much fuel” that’s it. Want to build a 750cc engine which revs to 50K or 9 litre V48 … if that’s the best efficiency / weight / drivability go for it.

Don’t know how to limit aero beyond the current limits on Wind Tunnel and CFD. I like bigger wings pushing bigger tyres into the track so the cars go faster, but more downforce means more turbulence behind so makes it harder to get close racing.


It be interesting to see something the original 4.5-unsupercharged/1.5 supercharged formula return. Non-hybrid. Want road relevance? Ditch pneumatic valvetrains.


The only effective way to control spending is to have a spec series. But if you want any kind of innovation, new technology, R & D having cost caps will be counter productive.
One simple way to improve racing is to decrease performance. Right now the brakes are so good, they just brake meters from the turn. Reducing braking performance increases the braking distance and that will provide much needed overtaking opportunity. Of course the drivers will still have to dive down brake late and do all the work, but at least they’ll have more area to do it.


Ross Brawn ash made it clear he does not want F1 to be dumbed down

A spec series is a real red line!


I’d like to say it’s none of his business but unfortunately it is!


Letting the car manufactures choose the formula will start another another spending war. its better if FIA can tell what they want. V8 is the most logical i guess. sounds good and they can work on the economy front as well. somehow a very simple(by F1 standards ofcourse) engine formula is needed.


I suspect the FIA will choose a some sort of multi-valve V6 biturbo engine with a modified KERS boost system for hybrid energy. That will help the auto companies like Mercedes who plowed hundred of millions into the hybrid engines avoid difficult political questions from their management boards while allowing for more power and better sound.

BTW, on the previous SKY F1 show, one of the Cosworth engine guys (I forgot his name) insisted that Cosworth could build an affordable and very competitive version of the current F1 V6 hybrid spec engine BUT none of the existing F1 teams bothered to call them since they were all locked into the group think that only a large auto manufacturer could support the current engines. I found his claims to be an interesting and reflective insight into one of F1’s oldest problems – there is only one viable solution to most problems and thus all teams try to poach geniuses from the more successful F1 teams. The same problem is currently reflected in the silicon valley tech industry.


Cosworth’s point regarding F1 group-think is interesting. It is what Honda tries to avoid, as the following article (on motorcycles) points out.


F1 needs to be affordable enough to attract new entrants. The only way to avert the current death spiral😀


Yes that is absolutely the way an Engineer would do it. I would probably go for 1000 hp limit 100kg fuel and no rev limit. In fact you could take it further and just say 100KG of fuel – over to you….


You forgot to add V4 and biturbo.


IMO, this hybrid technology use in F1 is one of the biggest scams ever.
The F1 rules were based largely on Mercedes research and therefore when it was introduced, they were several steps ahead of all others.

But I guess their trainee engineering program works fine, bcs the senior staff from the 1988-90 McLaren-Honda era were responsible for the S2000 and Fit/Jazz cars.
This week I’ve been following the launch of the Civic Si and Type-R cars.
How can Honda design such wonderful street cars and suck so much in F1?
What a ridle.

Worth to mention Ferrari poached Osamu Goto from HOnda too.

I guess this batch/generation of engineers is not quite good enough.


Ah yes, the Jazz … top of the list of classic automobiles of the 2000’s


Goto wasn’t poached by Ferrari, he was available after Honda withdrew in 1992 when Renault upped the ante.

Ever since Honda have failed spectacularly.

As an aside, when Ascanelli (Senna’s former chief engineer at Mclaren) ran Toro Rosso, they won a Grand Prix.

Those annoying Italians, constantly rubbishing the popular view of haplessness..

I’d be fascinated to know whether future historians (in 500 years or so) will look back at the Newey era and hold the bald man in as high esteem as Leonardo Da Vinci…


DeWeberis… Goto-san is with Ferrari ??? … really ???
OMG, i had missed this… when did he join Ferrari ?
Goto-san was with McLaren-Honda during the turbos of late 80s / early 90s
What was Honda thinking ? Why didn’t secure Goto-san to head turbo dev. ?


Excellent article, James. Thank you.


I agree. Thanks James

I think there is much to be said for the Japanese culture & how proud they are in all of this too. It is probably a failure for them at an intellectual level to even entertain bringing in European help.

I also think RBR should find the opportunity here & get a factory backed works deal with Honda too.


It seems that Toyota have followed Jame’s advice and have looked outside their organisation to grow the engineering dept.
Unfortunately they apparently poached Honda’s engine design team! #24heuresdumans


Maybe use Toro Rosso for development with a full works package to RBR thereafter? Depends upon who else they are talking to. VAG possibly?


Agreed – An excellent article – and a voice of reason in this unfortunate situation that Honda, McLaren & indeed F1 finds itself. It seems to be the only sensible way forward for all concerned – let’s hope it pans out. F1 need another manufacturer – i.e. Honda; and a great McLaren can only be good for F1.


So it’s plod-along-Honda ’till new engine regs for 2021 open a window of opportunity?


I suspect you are exactly right. They will limp along with Sauber at the back of the grid until we get a much simpler power unit in 2021. They seem incapable of any major learning for some reason. So disappointing and it has ruined the McLaren brand. Honda will still do ok in road cars.


I think all you have said is true but to start this year thinking they would be close to Mercedes and produce an engine that is much worse than last years is astonishing. How could they call it so wrong? Do they not bench test over the winter? It seems like incompetence rather than just lacking secrets from other teams.


spot on, i did say honda would struggle as soon as their return with maclaren was reported. i saw how they struggled back in the 1990s after all the other engine manufacturers introduced variable valve timing to their engines. i also saw how they struggled after their return with has never been known for f1 success apart from when they had the advantage of variable valve timing technology so maclaren weren’t very smart in choosing honda after mercedes baught brawn…there is no evidence that honda are competitive f1 engine manufacturers afterall we all saw how the honda far went with a mercedes engine bolted on and called brawn.


I dunno – I’ve seen suggestions elsewhere that this goes much deeper than F1, and a couple of decades of “efficiency savings” have put Honda R&D technologically well behind their counterparts at not only Merc, but most of the other major car companies/alliances too.


I think your exactly right, in my opinion they have not built a decent vehicle since the S2000 which was a great car, they also made some nice cars in the mid to late 1990’s with their high performance VTEC engines though now would you really buy anything they have?


honda underperformed in the past and no one complained…maclaren doesn’t make engines..


agreed, the only honda i ever got excited about is the s2000.


I disagree with this, all the Civic Type R’s, EK9 EP3 FK2 and with the exception of the FN2 have all been excellent cars. The latest Civic Type R FK8 is an awesome car for the price tag.


I doubt it is a matter of money or efficiency savings. The company is well resourced but their philosophy leaves them with the wrong resources for a particular project such as F1. They want to develop their engineers for a broader benefit of the company’s various divisions. That and a very cultural desire not to be controlled externally made them a laughing stock.

So they recognised the reputational problem and what did they do? More of the same of course.


Witan, agree with you.
“Made them a laughing stock”.
True. Yet Honda don’t seem to mind: “(…) what did they do? More of the same of course”.
Could it be that Honda are only a laughing stock in the West? I would be very interested to learn more about the way this issue is being treated in Japanese media. We NEVER get to hear anything about that. I know it’s supposed to be a global world, but in many ways Japan is still a separated universe. As long as they feel they haven’t lost face at home, nothing will change.


“I would be very interested to learn more about the way this issue is being treated in Japanese media.”
Most of the news in Japan quotes the same “experts” that you see in English language media. An article in Japanese site for example quote Tony Cuchella blaming a lack of investment by Honda in the simulation department, as well as Honda underestimating the commitment it would take to be competitive in F1.
Here’s some translations via Reddit:


Thanks @Richard Steele, much appreciated.


Cool link. Thanks for that. Lamest excuses I’ve ever heard. They haven’t a clue what they are doing.


Their Superbike is suffering – ask Guy Martin!

Moto GP not so bad but still not the reference point


Yamaha made a giant leap forward, but not because they bought engineers from other brands. Just open up alle the possibilities and let it run free to make a choice instead of lack of decisions taking people.

For F-1 it takes a bit longer, but they had years and years less experience compared to the established manufacturers.


I think you are close James, is Honda too stretched in supporting F1, Indycar, MotoGP, Superbikes, GT racing etc. Do they want to succeed in F1 or cover everything from two wheels to WTCC???


Perhaps a little too cautious during the GFC and now riding that decision?


Very good point. I was talking to a Honda car dealer recently and he bemoaned the fact that during the GFC Honda adopted a very conservative approach to everything and lost huge ground to other manufacturers in almost every aspect. As a result it’s only now (nearly 10 years later) that their passenger car offerings are becoming competitive in that dealer’s market.


Honda’s a pretty big mess in WSBK as well, and I mean that purely in regards to the bike, nothing to do with the late Nicki Hayden, who did a pretty decent job of slugging that thing around the last 2 seasons.

TCR and WTCC, they seem to have the Civic sorted out, they’re at least competitive. How is the civic in Global Rally Cross?….and wasn’t JB supposed to do some of those? They do well in BTCC as well…so it seems they have the 4 banger Civic nailed down.

They’ve been a mess in SuperGT for a number of season now, ever since switching to the new NSX. First it was a hybrid, and it was constantly back of the grid. They ditched the hybrid for this year, and it’s still not very competitive. This is a very strong factory effort, but keep in mind it’s an open tire war, which plays a huge role.

I still don’t understand the connection/separation between Honda Japan and HPD in the USA, but in Indycar the Honda motor and aero package lagged behind the Chevy package for the first two years. This year they’ve found some power, but reliability has gone to hell (see Indy or Long Beach).

I’m a little behind in my IMSA watching, has the NSX made more of an impression than it did at Daytona and Sebring? Remember last year at Daytona when the MSR car with Honda power was running away at the front before the motor went pop half way through?

In AMA supercross and outdoors, they lost their top rider to injury, so tough to make a call this year. Last year, they were dogs. I know they’ve got a new fuel injected 2-stroke coming out (along with KTM) that has the two wheeled off-road world buzzing…other than the buzz, I don’t know much about it.

MotoGP they’re pretty good, but let’s give credit where it’s due, Pedrosa and especially Marquez are riding their tails off to put that thing near the front. How many crashes does Marquez have this year? I think he had 5 at Catalunya alone.


Modern injection technology on a two stroke? Overdue; fully unleashed, the possibilities are fascinating. I’ll have to look this up.


It’s quite exciting 🙂 Many of my friends who ride are paying close attention. We all grew up riding two strokes, but have since moved on to 4s because that’s what’s been available.

However, over the last 3-4 years, most of the people I know who ride have given up on 4-strokes, and have either bought a used 2-stroke, or are seriously thinking about getting a new ktm or Honda when they launch.

A few friends also have Timbersled snowbike kits, and are salavating at the prospect of putting a snow kit on a 2-stroke, and then slapping a turbo on it :). One friend has a dedicated snow bike made out of an old CR500, and it’s absolutely nuts!


There was an incredible situation at the first round of Super GT earlier this year; 4 of the 5 Honda NSX running in the GT500 class retired due to the same problem, 3 of them on the formation lap!


Wow, I didn’t realize that the SuperGT program was in such dire straits.


It’s pretty bad. The new NSX has been a complete slug. Honda has been back of the grid since at least 2015. Initially the NSX used the same hybrid system that the F1 car was using, but they ended up ditched the hybrid all together and just sticking with the straight 4 turbo.

Of the 6 manufacturers using the Dome monocoque (Nissan, Toyota, BMW, Merc, Audi), Honda is the only one using a MR configuration, everyone else is FR. This could account for some of their struggles. The drivetrain layout also plays into how the car uses tires, which means the tire manufacturers have to make special tires just for the Hondas.

Still though, for a series that Honda puts a lot of effort into (alone for with Toyota and Nissan), I don’t think they’ve had a podium since 2014. If they do, it was because of attrition or a wet race.

For a couple of years now, long time Honda campaigners ARTA have been rumoured to possibly switch to BMW in GT500, I have to think it has something to do with Honda’s dismal performance.


How many of those three was Alonso driving?


All three


And what’s the reference point? HRC has won in Moto Gp four times in the past six years. This season there’s no ‘reference point’ because Michelin keeps changing their tyres: the races have been a lottery so far. HRC is different entity from Honda F1, and the latter is a different entity from Honda Racing (USA).


@ James…the same can be said about MotoGP. Marquez and Pedrosa /Repsol Honda are suffering at the hands of Ducati once again on sheer power. The Italians are on the rise..woo hoo.

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